Totally Disconnected

Last week I went to two talks on my campus.  One was by Richard Stallman, one of the founders of the GNU project and thus a co-inventor of Linux. The other was by the Nobel-prize winning economist Amartya Sen.

Both talks were sparsely attended considering the fame of the speaker.  At the Stallman talk there were old Gandalfian hackers and a few graduate students from our Forensic Computing master’s program.  There were faculty who were experts on cyber law in attendance, moving their heads in silent agreement or disagreement at this or that remark.  In the auditorium where Sen spoke nearly half the seats were empty, but the faculty were well-represented. Attending with my friend from African Studies, I sat next to a group from the English department, not far from a contingent of philosophers.  I also saw a few historians and psychologists, and a student of mine from the economics department.

At neither talk were there many mathematicians.  I found this a little disappointing, but not surprising. For myself, the talks were challenging and more or less pleasant, but the things discussed were completely irrelevant to my research in mathematical logic.  The same was true for other people in my department, and so I can understand why they might choose to spend their time doing other things.

I observed, a little enviously, that this was not at all true for my colleagues.  The remarks Stallman made about the role of software in a free society, and his views on the morally permissible uses of intellectual property, have relevance to work in criminal justice, economics, political science, philosophy and other fields.  He talked about current and possibly future legal conflicts between institutions and corporations with real significance to society and our technological mode of life.

Amartya Sen spoke on the nature of a just society, and as he spoke my friend and neighbor made furious notes, remarking on the material under his breath.  Some comments about the Rawlsian theory of justice and a recent declaration of food as a human right in India generated particular excitement. These were interesting observations and developments, which might in one form or another be incorporated into his future research.

To a weak but detectable extent at both talks, I felt like the campus with all its faculty was being unified by engagement in a single discourse.  Unfortunately it was a discourse in which mathematics, and in fact all the sciences, seemed without a place.  The things discussed and the forms of their discussion were disorganized, rhetorical and imprecise.  It was the kind of thing that many of us privately dismiss as “humanities nonsense,” in which the personality of the speaker figures largely and the cogency of what is being said is dubious.

But even though it is possible to console ourselves with a little chauvinism and a possibly well-earned feeling of self-righteousness, the lack of contact between math and other disciplines is still frustrating.  If nothing else, it would make life more interesting if the mathematics department were more actively and naturally involved with other groups.  As time goes on this difference seems to be becoming only more hopeless and pronounced.  We can and do make our livings teaching mathematical techniques from the 17th century to college students pursuing other majors.  But the real living core of what we do is invisible.  As is only natural, most people from other realms make no effort to seek it out or understand it.  Generally, we make no attempt to exposit or explain it.  What can we do besides watch this growing rift with increasing unease?

What is the traditional fate of the individual who bases life on a relationship with the transcendental rather than the social?  I believe that they tend to be burnt up or shot full of arrows, in proportion to how vocally they express their views.  At many colleges I feel the mathematics department has particularly neglected needs, and what could be less surprising given our state of isolation?

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

44 Responses to Totally Disconnected

  1. johan william says:

    That was such a cool article
    Thank you so much
    i really want to know how much time did you spend on it!!!
    By the way, Good Luck Judi slot88

  2. Really Amazing Article I Must say, though i think there is room for improvement

  3. When He Realizes You Blocked Him says:

    Good Point.
    Thanks for information.

  4. When He Realizes You Blocked Him says:

    Good Article Thanks

  5. That was such a cool article
    Thank you so much
    i really want to know how much time did you spend on it!!!
    By the way, Good Luck

  6. Awesome!!
    thanks a lot

  7. Togel Online Singapura says:

    nice article, total disconeccted, i wish peace for Indonesia.
    love from Indonesia

  8. game online terbaru
    akan rilis di tahun 2022

  9. demo slot says:

    Jadi optimis anda sudah masuk bersama Situs Online Bisa dipercaya Di Indonesia ASIAKING168, sebelum anda berusaha permainkan permainan Judi Slots Online ini. Maka anda bisa mendapat berbagai kelapangan dan juga peluang menang yang semakin besar, saat bermain Judi Slots Online uang asli Indonesia ini di ASIAKING168. Anda dapat melaksanakan demo slot di web Asia King. khususnya demo slot pragmatic sebagai favorit waktu ini.

  10. nice to read your uniq content

  11. Asia King168 says:

    tahnk you so much for sharing this article

  12. Asia King says:

    thanks, nice article. arigato

  13. mpokick says:

    mpokick is a website that allow you to play sometihing interesting

  14. pg soft slot says:

    thank you so much. i love you

  15. PG SOFT SLOT says:

    thank you for the information

  16. Demo PG SOFT says:

    Thank You.
    feel free take my give at Demo PG SOFT

  17. newmpo says:

    nice post. thank you

  18. cast ajans says:

    Yes, he was here. He didn’t leave much time for questions, but he was really interesting. I didn’t realize how uncompromising his views are– he’s kind of an anarchist.
    So Bothered To Help

  19. Thanks a lot I’m looking for this information for a long time I’m so glad to find it here

    Regards Jasa pembuatan tangki

  20. thanks for sharing this. I will recommend this blog to others, more people will get the information and help. For the best quality information and quick updates.

  21. Nice article you gat here

  22. Powerofng says:

    woow, nice article

  23. Naijabright says:

    Nice Post, i love it

  24. Nobsnaija says:

    Awesome content here

  25. ideaflavour says:

    Amazing I love this and also a surprisingly good website.

  26. Very useful and very good article. thanks for sharing.

  27. AURANGABAD says:

    After reading your article I was amazed. I know that you explain it very well. And I hope that other readers will also experience how I feel after reading your article. data science course in aurangabad

  28. Thanks for shared its amazing..

  29. harri sbritt says:

    The definition of the brand concept from the point of view of professional experience.  

  30. FlexyOkay says:

    Yes, he was here. He didn’t leave much time for questions, but he was really interesting. I didn’t realize how uncompromising his views are– he’s kind of an anarchist.
    So Bothered To Help

  31. Michael Carlisle says:

    Where was the advertising? If GC math & comp sci students and faculty knew that Stallman was talking at CUNY, I’m guessing you would have had a full house.

  32. Suzanne Tee says:

    The Stallman talk was excellent. It is really too bad that the info on the talk was not circulated enough. Despite my irritation with his reference to programmers as `he’ and users `she’, I still managed to come home inspired by his vision, and I think he may be the most entertaining living anarchist.

  33. Yes, he was here. He didn’t leave much time for questions, but he was really interesting. I didn’t realize how uncompromising his views are– he’s kind of an anarchist.

  34. Putting aside your cogent point about the need for Math faculty to be involved in such discussions: WOW — Richard Stallman was here?! I really wish I had known, as we would have helped promote the talk on the Commons. Really sorry to have missed him.

Comments are closed.